CINCINNATI — There was a moment late in Sunday’s game when the reality of the situation the Rays are in fully hit manager Kevin Cash.
More than the 10-5 score that was soon to be final, capping a lost weekend in Cincinnati with a three-game sweep by the last-place Reds, but the players who because of injuries weren’t on the field.
“The injuries are the toughest thing, no doubt,’’ Cash said. “They always are. They always will be. But you’ve got to overcome them.
“We looked out at our positioning and our lineup right there at the end of the game … when you’re missing five everyday players, you’re going to see the effects of it. Saying that, it’s opportunity for these guys. And hopefully they can make the most of it.’’
Shortstop Wander Franco and centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier were the latest additions Sunday to the Rays’ majors-most-matching 15-player injured list, joining a group that includes frontline second baseman Brandon Lowe, outfielder Manuel Margot and catcher Mike Zunino, plus, a handful of proven pitchers who also would be helping them.
The group the Rays have healthy is somewhat young and/or inexperienced, and it shows.
It certainly did Sunday, when the Rays were hurt by a missed scoring opportunity in the first inning, two defensive misplays and an inexplicable baserunning mistake by Taylor Walls.
“Like to have played better,’’ Cash said.
Most damaging was the pitching of rookie Shane Baz, who in an ugly third inning gave up seven runs on six hits, including three home runs (each a two-run shot), one shy of the team record for an inning.
“I felt fine. (I was) just making some bad pitches and falling behind in the count and leaving stuff over the heart of the plate,’’ Baz said. “And that’s what happens.’’
Cash took a less harsh view, noting the two defensive miscues in the inning — “We didn’t help (Baz) necessarily, put him in a little bit of a bind” — and crediting the Reds for taking advantage of the pitches they got to hit.
The game got off to an ominous start.
Yandy Diaz led off with a double for the first of his three hits, and Harold Ramirez followed with a single off Nick Lodolo. But Walls, whom Cash surprisingly moved to the No. 3 spot despite his .163 average, struck out on three pitches for the first of his four strikeouts on the day, Randy Arozarena went down swinging and Isaac Paredes popped out.
The defense hurt the Rays, and made life tougher on Baz, in the third. Rightfielder Josh Lowe played a single by Tommy Pham into a triple, and that set up a throwing error by catcher Rene Pinto when they had Pham caught between third and home on a grounder to first, which allowed Pham to score.
Walls’ mistake the one time he did reach base, singling to put two on with two outs in the third, was egregious. He got caught making too wide a turn at first as rightfielder Tyler Naquin briefly bobbled the ball and was thrown out, the Rays’ majors-most by far 44th out on bases, not including caught stealings, pickoffs and force plays.
Walls declined to talk with reporters after the game.
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“It just can’t happen,’’ Cash said. “It’s got to stop. It’s not on ‘Wallsy;’ it’s collectively on all of us. We’ve got to do a better job on the bases.’’
Having been swept by the team that started the weekend with the second-fewest wins in the majors, the Rays head home for a four-game battle with the American League East rival Red Sox, from whom they last week took two of three in Boston and hope to spend the summer battling for a wild-card playoff spot.
As beaten and battered as the Rays were leaving Cincinnati, could the challenge of facing the Sox get them focused and fired up?
“Yeah, sure, I’ll take that,” Cash said. “We’ll take whatever right now. We’ve got guys that are getting their first consistent reps in the big leagues. And if that motivates them — I’m sure there’ll be some pretty good crowds and a division rival. We need to play good.”
Also, as Diaz said, via team interpreter Manny Navarro: “I think this team here plays against the better teams a little bit better. I think we’re going to be all right against Boston.”
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